Introductory material on these pages draws on guidance sheets prepared by the Attorney-General's Department in consultation with the Commission. The assistance of the Department is gratefully acknowledged.
Please let us know of any additions, updates or corrections to these pages you would like to suggest.
Civil and political rights | Economic, social and cultural rights | Rights of indigenous people | Women's rights | Children's rights | Disability rights | Rights of older persons | Sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex
- Right to self-determination (ICCPR Article 1)
- Rights to equality and non-discrimination (ICCPR Article 2.1, 26; ICESCR Article 2.1; CERD; CEDAW; CAT; CROC; CRPD)
- Human rights and non-citizens (ICCPR Articles 2.1, 13)
- Legislative and other measures for implementation (ICCPR Article 2.2; ICESCR Article 2.1; CERD; CEDAW; CAT; CROC; CRPD)
- Right to an effective remedy (ICCPR Article 2.3)
- Permissible limitations on rights
- Equal rights of men and women (ICCPR Article 3; ICESCR Article 3; CEDAW)
- Derogation from rights in emergencies (ICCPR Article 4)
- Non-diminution of rights (ICCPR Article 5; ICESCR Article 5)
- Right to life (ICCPR Article 6)
- Freedom from torture or cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment or punishment (ICCPR Article 7; CAT)
- Freedom from slavery and forced labour (ICCPR Article 8)
- Security of the person and freedom from arbitrary detention (ICCPR Article 9)
- Right to humane treatment in detention (ICCPR Article 10)
- Prohibition on imprisonment for inability to fulfil a contract (ICCPR Article 11)
- Right to freedom of movement (ICCPR Article 12)
- Fair trial and fair hearing rights (ICCPR Article 14.1)
- Minimum guarantees in criminal proceedings (ICCPR Articles 14.2 - 14.7)
- Prohibition on retrospective criminal laws (ICCPR Article 15)
- Right to recognition as a person (ICCPR Article 16; CRPD Article 12)
- Freedom from interference with privacy, family, home or reputation (ICCPR Article 17)
- Freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief (ICCPR Article 18)
- Freedom of information, opinion and expression (ICCPR Article 19)
- Prohibiition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred (ICCPR Article 20; CERD Article 4)
- Freedom of assembly (ICCPR Article 21)
- Freedom of association (ICCPR Article 22; ICESCR Article 8)
- Right to respect for the family (ICCPR Article 23.1)
- Right to marry and found a family (ICCPR Article 23.2)
- Rights of parents and children (ICCPR Article 24; CRC)
- Right to name and nationality (ICCPR Article 24; CERD; CEDAW; CRC; CRPD)
- Right to take part in public affairs, voting rights and access to public service (ICCPR Article 25)
- Rights of members of ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities (ICCPR Article 27)
The legislation defining human rights for the purposes of Commission functions is complicated.
In particular the Commission currently only has direct jurisdiction regarding the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in relation to the work of
- the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, and
- the National Children's Commissioner.
This is despite human rights being repeatedly referred to as "universal and indivisible" (in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, in the ICCPR and ICESCR, and in subsequent instruments.
However, the Commission also has jurisdiction regarding a range of economic, social and cultural rights
- under each of the discrimination Acts and
- in relation to rights of persons with disabilities.
Information on economic, social and cultural rights is included here accordingly. Having regard to the principles of universaility and indivisibility, the Commission supports protection of the full range of human rights for all people in Australia.
- Nature of obligations under ICESCR (ICESCR Artilce 2)
- Right to work and rights in work (ICESCR Articles 6, 7; 10; CERD; CEDAW; CRC; CRPD; ILO 111)
- Right to education (ICESCR Article 13; CERD, CEDAW, CRC; CRPD)
- Right to an adequate standard of living, including food, water and housing (ICESCR Article 11)
- Right to health (ICESCR Article 12)
- Right to social security (ICESCR Article 9)
- Rights to enjoy and benefit from science and culture (ICESCR Article 15)
Rights of indigenous peoples are addressed in the main human rights treaties including through the rights to self determination and through obligations to prevent racial discrimination.
The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the functions of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner within the Commission address in more detail a wide range of human rights issues including civil, political, economic social, and cultural rights issues.
More detailed information is available in the Social Justice section of this site.
As indicated above, in addition to the general requirements of non-discrimination in Article 2 of each of the ICCPR and ICESCR, Article 3 of both Covenants requires parties to ensure and promote equal enjoyment of rights for women. These rights and requirements are set in more detail in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimnation Against Women.
More detailed information on the Commission's work is available in the Sex Discrimination section of this site.
The ICCPR recognises children's rights, although only relatively briefly.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child addresses in more detail a wide range of human rights including civil, political, economic social, and cultural rights.
More detailed information is available in the Childrens Rights section of this site.
The Human Rights Covenants cover people with disability (by implication, through their reference to rights for "all individuals", and without discrimination of "any kind", including on the basis of "other status").
- The Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights has included the rights of persons with disability among its General Comments. The Committee on Human Rights has not done so at this point.
- The Convention on the Rights of the Child was the first of the main human rights treaties to deal expressly with rights of people with a disability
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities addresses in detail a wide range of rights including civil, political, economic social, and cultural rights. It
- confirms that these rights apply to people with disability;
- provides more detail on what some rights mean in the context of disability (for example regarding acessibility and independent living)
- sets out in more detail than other human rights instruments what obligations governments have.
More detailed information is available in the Disability Rights section of this site.
The existing main human rights treaties apply to older people as a matter of law (since they recognise rights for "all" individuals and without "any" discrimination) although they do not address ageing expressly or in detail. However:
- The United Nations has adopted a range of non-binding instruments on the rights of older persons including the United Nations Principles for Older Persons.
- The Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights has included the rights of older persons among its General Comments. The Committee on Human Rights has not done so at this point.
- Development of a specific Convention on the rights of older persons is currently being considered.
Further information in this area is available in the Age Discrimination section of this site.
The existing human rights treaties apply to all people, and include human rights issues regarding sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex people.
Issues regarding sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex people involve a wide range of rights.
Further information in this area is available in the Sexuality, Sex and Gender Identity section of this site.